Community empowerment through enhanced literacy

Community empowerment through enhanced literacy: Image

Graduation and testimony

During the terminal phase of the project I attended a graduation ceremony at the Pietermaritzburg show grounds in Natal. Thousands of mature students were present, each decked out in the colours of the region from which they had been transported. They sat in a massive tent the size of a football field. In turn, each region was acknowledged, and a great number of certificates were handed out. Recipients ranged from 19 years to gogos (grandmothers) in their 90s. Some danced for joy, expressing their delight at being accredited as sufficiently literate to read a newspaper in Zulu or English.

7. Tests

Tests helped learning and did not hinder it, because facilitators did not find errors and omissions as a first concern, but rather allowed learners to display their learning experiences positively.


6. Modalities

A wide range of modalities was used, including physical responses to language, making simple drawings linked to instructions, understanding aural input, creating spoken output, reading, writing, doing word puzzles, undertaking manipulation of objects while verbalizing, describing pictures, performing song, dance, music, acting-out scenarios, gestures and facial expressions, and making things while explaining the process.


5. Rules of usage

Rule-governed (phonological, syntactical, semantic, pragmatic) subsystems were dealt with in an interrelated way. Learners performed rules actively and did not simply memorize or discuss them.


4. Non-threatening atmosphere.

No emotional threats were allowed to surface, peers and teachers helped to ensure this. People were required to be comforting, interested and respectful of each other.


3. Normal environments and tasks

Learners used language for normal social purposes. Facilitators encouraged participatory activities that were student-initiated, purposeful and task-oriented.


2. Motivation

Facilitators were taught to ensure that they captured interest early by using the learner’s needs and interests.


1. Creating sound conditions for language to thrive

Rather than to rely on sometimes sterile formal instruction that could frighten and overwhelm an illiterate participant, the programme created the conditions under which language could develop spontaneously in its own way within a secure environment. The approach is summarised under 5 and 6 below.



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